Are you considering a move to Pennsylvania? If so, you may be drawn to the beautiful scenery, dynamic industry, or the charm of its cities. The Keystone State is home to both large corporations and hundreds of startups, so you will have little problem finding a job in a variety of industries.
Its prime location between the Northeastern states and the Southern region allows Pennsylvanians to enjoy the best of both worlds. The proximity to New York City and the Atlantic seaboard make it an ideal place for the weekend traveler, while still boasting some of the best historical museums and fantastic restaurants within its borders. It’s no wonder the Keystone State attracts newcomers from all over the country to settle down and start a new life.
For any first-time homebuyer, the process can be a bit overwhelming in the beginning. It may seem like your dream home is just out of reach when you crunch the numbers. If you find a gap between the upfront cost and the amount you can afford to spend, you might seek financial assistance to make your dream home more easily attainable. In Pennsylvania, there are several opportunities through the state government and other organizations to help new buyers reach their dream of homeownership.
Financial assistance programs often vary by state, and some by city or region. Here are several opportunities for first-time homebuyers in Pennsylvania to consider.
Who Qualifies as a First-time Homebuyer in Pennsylvania?
According to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), an individual is considered a first-time homebuyer if they have not owned (had Title to) a home in the past three years as their primary residence. However, repeat buyers who are purchasing in designated target areas and some qualified veterans may be exempt from this requirement. When reviewing the guidelines for each program, check the specific requirements for exceptions.
Statewide First-Time Buyer Programs
The following programs are available statewide to Pennsylvania residents.
Keystone Home Loan Program
The PHFA Keystone Home Loan Program is an exclusive loan product for first-time homebuyers, individuals purchasing in target areas, and qualified veterans. Income limits, purchase price maximums, and credit restrictions apply. See website for full details and eligibility information.
Keystone Forgivable in Ten Years Loan Program (K-FIT)
The Keystone Forgivable in Ten Years Loan Program (K-FIT) provides a second mortgage to qualified homebuyers for up to five percent of the lesser of the purchase price or appraised value to assist with down payment and closing costs. This program may only be used in conjunction with the Keystone Home Loan Program. The K-FIT loan is forgivable on an annual basis over 10 years. See website for details and other eligibility requirements.
Mortgage Tax Credit Certificate
A PHFA Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) allows qualified first-time homebuyers to claim a tax credit of 20 to 50 percent of the mortgage interest paid per year, up to $2,000 annually. This may be used in conjunction with the HFA Preferred, Keystone Government Loan, or a Keystone Advantage Assistance Loan. It may not be combined with the Keystone Home Loan. See website for more information and to learn if you are eligible to apply.
Residents of Pennsylvania who participate in PHFA’s Keystone Home Loan Program and meet income and purchase price limits – as determined by county – may be eligible to apply for the HOMEstead program. The HOMEstead program provides up to $10,000 in a no-interest, second mortgage loan to be applied to down payment and closing costs. The loan may be forgiven at 20 percent per year over five years, as long as the borrower meets certain requirements. This program is for first-time homebuyers and is limited to specific counties which do not already receive their own federally allocated funds. See website for more information and to find out if your county is eligible.
Statewide Non First-Time Buyer Programs
While the above programs are strictly available for first-time homebuyers, there are other statewide programs to assist individuals looking to move from one home they have owned into another.
The PHFA offers HFA Preferred to both first-time and repeat buyers. This is a conventional loan product at a fully amortized 30-year fixed rate term. PHFA is the servicer and works with a network of approved lenders. Because of this structure, borrowers will make monthly payments to PHFA. Mortgage insurance is offered by one of several private mortgage companies if the down payment is less than 20 percent of the purchase price. Income limits and credit restrictions apply, so be sure to visit the website to learn more.
Keystone Government Loan
For both first-time and repeat buyers, the PHFA offers Keystone Government Loans. These mortgage products are backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the Rural Development program of the USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Government loans have individual limitations and specific benefits by program, so be sure to check out the website for more information and learn if you may qualify.
Keystone Advantage Assistance Loan Program
The Keystone Advantage Assistance Loan Program is available to both first-time and repeat buyers to help with down payment and closing cost assistance. This is in the form of a second mortgage loan where qualified borrowers may receive up to four percent of the purchase price or $6,000, whichever is less. The loan will be amortized over 10 years at zero percent interest and must be repaid monthly. See website for more details and eligibility requirements.
Programs for Persons with Disabilities
If a homebuyer is eligible for a PHFA loan and has a disability – or a household member has a disability – additional funds may be available to make accessibility modifications to their new home. Through the PHFA Access Home Modification Program, eligible recipients may receive a zero-interest loan between $1,000 and $10,000, in combination with a Keystone Home Loan or a Keystone Government Loan. Restrictions apply, so be sure to check out the website for more information.
Additionally, through the Access Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program, homebuyers may be eligible for up to $15,000 in a zero-interest loan to put towards down payment and closing cost assistance. Eligible borrowers must also use the Access Home Modification Program and meet income requirements. See website for details.
Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) Initiative
The PHFA partners team with many participating employers via the Employee Assisted Housing (EAH) Program to offer a monetary home purchase benefit to their employees to help stretch their dollars a little further. If the employee qualifies for a PHFA mortgage, they may receive additional financial benefits at no added cost to their employer. This may include a Keystone Advantage Assistance Loan of up to $8,000 to put towards a down payment or closing costs. For more information and to learn if your employer is a participating EAH partner, visit the website.
Homebuyer Programs by Location
In addition to statewide programs, there are often homebuyer assistance programs based in different cities and regions of a state.
Homebuyers looking to live in Allegheny County, but outside of the City of Pittsburgh, may be eligible to apply for the Allegheny County First-Time Homebuyer Program. This program, when available, offers a low-interest, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for qualified borrowers who meet income limits and other requirements. See website for more information and to apply.
Residents of Berks County, including the City of Reading, may be able to take advantage of financial assistance programs through Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks, Inc. This organization offers homebuyer education courses and opportunities for homeownership financing and closing cost assistance. See website for details and information on how to apply.
The Bucks County Housing Group offers free counseling for a variety of Bucks County First-Time Homebuyer programs. These programs may include down payment and closing cost assistance, or mortgage assistance based on income and other criteria for residents of Bucks County. See website for more information.
Residents of Chester County may be interested in the Chester County First Time Home Buyer Program. This program offers assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals who wish to purchase a home within the county. Eligibility requirements apply, so visit the website for more information.
The Cumberland County Affordable Housing Trust Fund First-Time Homebuyers Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program provides up to either $3,000 or $5,000 in assistance to qualified first-time homebuyers who purchase homes in Cumberland County. The maximum amount is based on gross household income level and comes in the form of a five-year, no interest, forgivable loan to be used towards closing costs. This program will match the borrowers’ savings 3-to-1. For every $1 that the buyer puts down towards the purchase price of the home, the county will provide $3 in assistance. Other eligibility requirements apply, so be sure to visit the website for more information.
For residents of Dauphin County, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board/First Time Home Buyers Program (FTHB) offers down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. Eligible applicants must reside within the County and meet other qualifications. See website for contact information and to find out if you may be eligible.
Residents of Delaware County may be eligible for financial assistance through the Delaware County Homeownership First and Revitalization Program. This program is specifically designed to help low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers who are purchasing in Delaware County. Eligible applicants may qualify for up to $5,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance. See website for details and to complete an application.
The Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP) has established a Down Payment Assistance (DPA) Program that offers down payment and closing cost assistance for first-time homebuyers. This assistance is offered in a zero percent interest loan of up to $5,000 with no monthly payments. Eligible borrowers must meet income limits and other qualifications, and the DPA loan is offered in conjunction with other mortgage loan products through partner lenders. Eligible properties must be within Lancaster County. See website for more information and to learn how to apply.
First-time homebuyers in Luzerne County may be eligible to apply for the Growing Homeowner’s Program to assist with homeownership goals. This program offers down payment assistance in an amount up to $7,500 in a second mortgage loan that is forgivable after five years of residing within the primary residence. The application process includes working alongside a homeownership specialist to establish financial goals and attend a minimum of three homebuyer readiness classes. To learn more, visit the website.
The Montgomery County First Time Homebuyers Program offers grant assistance to new homebuyers who plan to purchase their home within Montgomery County. The assistance amount will be based upon financial need, selling price, and household assets, but may be a maximum of 10 percent of the estimated sales price, not to exceed $10,000. This assistance will be in the form of a zero percent interest forgivable loan with repayment required only in the case of the home being sold or transferred, or another reason as specified in the contract. See website for more information and to find out if you may be eligible.
The City of Philadelphia offers a generous financial assistance program for first-time homebuyers in the area. The Philly First Home Program provides an assistance grant of up to $10,000 or six percent of the home’s purchase price, whichever is lower, to put towards down payment, closing costs, or principal reduction as necessary. Eligible applicants must be first-time homeowners and the property must be within Philadelphia city limits. Income limits and other eligibility requirements may apply, so be sure to visit the website for more information.
Residents of Pittsburgh with low or moderate income may be eligible for down payment or closing cost assistance through the Urban Development Authority of Pittsburgh (URA). Income-eligible borrowers may apply for a grant of $3,000 to put towards down payment and closing costs. See website for details and to find out if you may qualify.
Members of FHLBank Pittsburgh may also be eligible to apply for a down payment assistance grant through the First Front Door program. This dollar-for-dollar assistance is available to first-time homebuyers only and borrowers must obtain their first mortgage through a participating FFD provider. See website for more information and to discover if you meet the eligibility requirements.
The City of Scranton offers a generous financial assistance program for new homebuyers. The Scranton Homebuyer Program offers a minimum of $5,000 in assistance to new homebuyers who meet income limits and eligibility requirements. See website for more information and to apply.
Residents of State College may take advantage of several opportunities for financial assistance. The State College Borough First-Time Home Buyer Program offers mortgage and closing cost assistance for lower- and moderate-income families through the local government. Local nonprofit organizations also offer gap financing and mortgage assistance to individuals and families seeking to live in the Borough. For more information on all programs, visit the State College Home Ownership Programs website.
Residents of Upper Darby may apply for financial assistance through the Upper Darby Township First Time Homebuyer Program. Eligible borrowers may receive up to $6,000 to put towards closing costs. Homebuyers must meet income requirements and purchase price limits. To learn more, be sure to visit the website.
The Washington County First Time Homebuyer Program provides assistance to income-eligible residents seeking their first home in Washington County. This program offers down payment assistance in the form of a zero percent interest, deferred loan to be paid off when the first mortgage is paid in full. This program is specifically designed for low- and moderate-income households. See website for more information and how to apply.
In the City of Williamsport, residents may take advantage of the Williamsport Home Buyer Assistance G A P Financing Program. This program offers up to 20 percent of the purchase price as a zero percent interest, deferred repayment loan to put towards down payment and closing costs. Income and credit history will be an important part of the application process. Visit the website for more details and find out if this program may fit your needs.
Purchase your Pennsylvania Dream Home
Taking the next step towards your dream of homeownership is a big one. If you find that your favorite house is just slightly out of reach, be sure to check out these programs and take advantage of financial assistance in your state. With a little help, you will find yourself settling into your dream Pennsylvania home sooner than you think!
The links on this site were researched by NewHomeSource. This is as cohesive a list as possible. Individual homebuyers should contact entities to fully understand requirements and processes.
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.